GBissau agrees deal to end transport strike

Guinea Bissau Prime Minister Aristide Gomes.
Guinea Bissau Prime Minister Aristide Gomes.
Image: GEORGES GOBET / AFP

Guinea-Bissau's government on Thursday signed a deal with a federation of truckers, bus owners and taxi drivers to end a strike that had brought the West African state to a standstill, officials said.

The federation launched the strike on Tuesday in protest at the many problems facing transporters, including police bribery.

The protocol agreement was signed on the government's side by the General Directorate for Land Transport (DVGTT), which is in charge of Guinea-Bissau's roads; the National Traffic Police; and the National Guard.

Under the deal, the government pledged to cut the number of checkpoints - a major source of kickbacks and delays - within two months.

DVGTT chief Bamba Banjai, speaking to journalists after the signature, hailed the accord.

Bus traffic swiftly began to return to the streets Bissau, the capital, which had been virtually deserted.

Private schools, which depend on minibuses and taxis to drop off and pick up children, had told students to stay at home, and many civil servants did not go to work.

As the strike ran into its second day on Wednesday, the head of the transporters' federational, Bubacar Felix Frederico, warned that the protest would only be lifted "with the official undertaking" of Prime Minister Aristides Gomes.

Among the federation's demands were improvement to the country's notoriously poor roads, but the issue is not addressed in the protocol and has been placed to one side.

Guinea-Bissau, a former Portuguese colony, ranks among the poorest countries in the world, according to the UN's development index.

It has just 4,400 kilometres of roads, of which only 10 percent (453 km) are paved. Non-paved roads are notoriously slow and dangerous, and prone to being washed out during the rainy season.

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